Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Greetings in the name of our merciful Savior Jesus Christ whom the Father has exalted to the place of all authority and who now lives to make intercession on behalf of his church: I write this Post-Convention Letter during the Sabbath pause of the Spring House of Bishops Meeting. I awoke early, the morning after the convention at first troubled. As I reflected on the events of our 218th Diocesan Convention there were those things I wished I hadn’t done, and those things I wished I had. Certainly I have been in such a place many times before as a parish rector””actually, as a Christian, for that matter””for it is the human condition isn’t it. As a young rector I used to stew about such things for quite some time. Now, I find the new challenges come so quickly, that after giving whatever time I can to self-examination, proper confession and absolution, (it is Lent isn’t it!), it seems best to just move on in grace-filled trust.
By the time this letter is sent to you I will have returned from the House of Bishops. We, in the diocese, have a lot of work to do. I am eager to get on with it. The two main dimensions of my vision for this diocese, as I described it in the Bishop’s Address, is my overriding commitment. It was my hope as I prepared for our convention that the Gospel Mandate and the call to make Biblical Anglicans for a Global Age would dominate the landscape throughout all of our sessions. Yet as we entered into the debate on resolutions several things came to the forefront: 1) The controversies in our “National Church” *(see below) quickly took center stage. 2) These issues afoot in TEC have the power to threaten our ability to do the two key dimensions of the vision I have committed myself to and believe the diocese should fully embrace. 3) The parliamentary model is an inadequate process for a diocese to have the conversation which is needed at this time. 4) Resolutions from the floor, when not necessitated by recent developments, are not the preferable way to initiate serious debate. I write this last comment without pointing fingers, for the Standing Committee and I brought the first resolution to the floor and without sufficient time for the body to be able to fully understand its implications and reflect upon it. A layperson asked the question from the floor if the resolution (that the Standing Committee and I brought to the floor) was an attempt to unbolt the sidecar from the motorcycle””referring to the metaphor used in my Bishop’s Address. Had I excused myself from the chair I would have answered by saying, “It is a resolution to make sure the back wheel is not removed from the motorcycle!” But, back to the matter of resolutions from the floor, may I suggest that sometimes churches like families try to avoid needed conversations. When, however, the issues are brought up, albeit hastily, blame is assigned to the person who sought to have the needed conversation.
Of course we are in the middle of Lent. I remember well what that can be like for those of you who are rectors or vicars. So, while recognizing this, nevertheless, I will commit myself to find ways to have the conversations with many of you; first, in more intimate settings; then in more inclusive forums. Should anyone infer that these are primarily conversations to leave The Episcopal Church they would be mistaken. While nothing will be forbidden from the conversation, the purpose of our gatherings will be to discuss what it means to be””as our diocesan Constitution puts it””“The Church in the Diocese of South Carolina”¦.”
–(The Rt. Rev.) Mark Joseph Lawrence is Bishop of South Carolina